Many farm equipment dealerships no longer have diagnostic and repair manuals for machinery manufactured since 2000. Instead of buying a half dozen or more printed-on-paper manuals that cost $200 to $700 per copy, most dealership now opt for manuals on CDs or DVDs that mechanics use with laptop computers. The software is copyrighted and sold ONLY to dealerships that meet strict guidelines established by the parent company.
The benefits and problems of having everything on laptops is a good topic for a future blog, but for now, heed this warning: At least one, maybe more, internet buy/sell websites have sellers offering software programs identical to what mainline farm equipment manufacturers sell to dealerships. The software is advertised to have everything that dealership software has, including diagnostic and repair procedures for all the tractors, combines, harvesters, planters, sprayers and tillage equipment offered by that manufacturer. The implication is that if a farmer buys this software he will have access to all the tech manuals available to dealerships.
Maybe so. But what isn't told is that most equipment manufacturers issue regular updates to their tech support software programs. And written into those programs are "time bombs" that, after 60 days, 4 months, maybe one year, the software programs do a Mission Impossible and self-destruct so they are no longer readable by a computer.
If the idea of buying "genuine" dealership tech manuals over the internet is tempting, be aware that those manuals may work great for a week, a month, maybe a year. Then built-in protection sub-programs will erase or make unreadable the information within the program.
If a farmer desperately wants to have a dealership tech manual for a particular tractor, combine or other piece of equipment so they can do more diagnosis and repairs themselves, printed-on-paper manuals are still available through dealerships for most farm equipment. Some dealers are reluctant to sell paper tech manuals to customers; others figure anybody willing to pay the price has the right to the information about that single piece of farm equipment. Whether to invest several hundred dollars in a specific tech manual for a high-maintenance piece of equipment like a combine, cotton harvester, baler or sprayer depends on how much work on the machine the farmer intends to do himself over the lifetime of the machine.
But it's a sure thing that spending the money on pirated computer software is probably not a long-term investment because all the buyer will eventually end up with is blank, unreadable computer disks. If it's any consolation...what I've heard from second-hand sources who have been reliable in the past is that the mainline equipment manufacturers are going to land on software pirates with all the power their corporate lawyers can muster. Very soon and very hard.
Maybe you agree with the mainline equipment manufacturers. Maybe you're sympathetic to the software pirates. My concern is that farmers will spend hundreds of dollars and end up with nothing.